An interesting item on NPR’s All Things Considered today about the regulation of the florist industry in Louisiana. As it turns out, in Louisiana (and no other state) you need a permit to sell flowers. In order to obtain that permit, you need to pass an exam. The exam involves practical tests of techniques that are no longer relevant in the modern florist industry and is therefore extremely difficult to pass. What’s more, the test is judged by existing licensed florists who have no reason to welcome more competition in the industry. A legal activist group is now seeking to overturn this regulatory requirement. Only in Louisiana could it happen that you need to pass a test to sell a flower, but not to buy a gun.
I offer this tidbit as a counterpoint to my article from a while back: Deregulation Sucks. Perhaps in the interest of not seeming totally self-contradictory I should modify that statement a bit. The purpose of government, and therefore the purpose of governmental regulation, is to serve the public good. In the flower-arranging case, what possible public good is served by requiring licenses of florists? No-one is going to be damaged by getting a dud bunch of dahlias and even if they were, market forces are going to fix that problem pretty quick. Floristry isn’t a wide-scale public need, like electricity or transport. So maybe I ought to say that regulation, or the lack of it as the case may be, sucks whenever the public good isn’t being served.